Facebook have told Guy Verhofstadt it will not remove a video from the Hungarian government that the EU’s liberal leader claims has been “heavily manipulated” and viewed over six million times on the social media platform.
A letter seen by the FT from Facebook’s head of EU affairs told Mr Verhofstadt that the clip does not breach the company’s community or advertising rules and could not be removed.
First uploaded in October by Budapest’s anti-migrant government, the 35-second clip denounces Mr Verhofstadt for saying the EU “needs migration”. The liberal leader and former Belgian prime minister said the clip has been taken out of context and has written two letters to Facebook officials to remove the clip after it appeared as “sponsored content” on the platform.
In a response dated December 21, Facebook told Mr Verhofstadt the clip does not constitute “disinformation” as it does “not include misleading advertising, reporting errors, satire and parody, or clearly identified partisan news and commentary”.
“For these reasons, we do not have a basis to restrict this content on Facebook”, said the letter from Thomas Kristensen, managing director of EU Affairs for Facebook.
“You may wish to address this issue directly with the Hungarian government or through your own commentary on their content” added the letter.
Mr Verhofstadt has said failure to remove the video would undermine promises from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, to combat “disinformation” and “false news” on the platform.
The EU has stepped up warnings to tech companies about the spread of online disinformation ahead of European Parliament elections next year where officials fear foreign interference will stoke anti-EU sentiment and drum up support for Eurosceptic populist parties.
Facebook and other tech giants like Twitter and Google earlier this year signed up to the EU’s voluntary “code of conduct” to combat the spread of disinformation or risk the threat of regulation and potential fines.
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